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Hawaii-based Marines provide security, helping hand to Iraqi town

29 Mar 2006 | Sgt. Roe F. Seigle

When 22 year old Cpl. Jeff Globis taped a picture in his Kevlar helmet of his wife, he did so knowing it would be the only way he could see her for seven months. 

“I think of her all throughout the day,” said the team leader from Winthrop Harbor, Ill. “It was hard to say goodbye to her, but my Marines are my family and I can turn to them for support.”

Globis is deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with hundreds of Marines and sailors from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment out of Hawaii. 

Globis, and the Marines from Lima Company have the duty of keeping law and order in this remote, forward operating base located along the Euphrates River in the Western Al Anbar Province. 

So far, they’re doing just that.

Daily life

Life for the Marines here means daily patrols with Iraqi Soldiers to maintain a presence and dissuade any potential insurgent activity.  Rifles in hand, they patrol in their Humvees, and sometimes on foot. They interact with the locals, who seem for the most part friendly to the Marines and Iraqi soldiers.

The Marines are partnered with and mentor Iraqi soldiers, who patrol regularly with the Marines to gain the necessary military skills to conduct operations on their own, which Coalition forces say will happen by year’s end.

After all, it will ultimately be the Iraqi soldiers who permanently replace coalition forces in Al Anbar Province, which has arguably housed the worst of Iraq’s insurgency over the past three years.

When they are not actively patrolling the streets, the Marines are continuously preparing for their next mission.  During this time, conversations about home life, loved ones and movies they’re missing back in the States surface. 

“I do not mind it here too much,” said Lance Cpl. Manuel Weiss of Crawfordville, Fla., as he put on a bullet-proof vest and snapped the straps on his Kevlar helmet before “going outside the wire” for another patrol. 

“I wanted to come here,” said Weiss, 27.  “That is why I joined the Marine Corps to begin with – to fight the terrorists.”

A patrol of the area

The Marines’ first few days here were spent conducting familiarization patrols of the area.  According to Globis, it was a chance to “get to know the people, kids and common sights.” 

But the Marines from 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, also known as “America’s Battalion,” have worked hand-in-hand with the outgoing unit to continue security operations here.  The area was an insurgent-filled hotspot seven months ago before Marines and Iraqi soldiers wiped out nearly all remnants of the insurgency here. 

Now, as Marines walk the streets, children are eager to approach and shake the hands of the Marines.  One Marine put a smile on a child’s face when he gave him the remainder of a small amount of black electrical tape as a toy. Several feet behind him, another Marine is busy explaining basic commands to an Iraqi soldier named “Ahmad.” 

The Marines keep one eye on their surroundings, another on their Iraqi comrades to ensure they’re practicing what they’ve learned. Proper patrolling techniques and a watchful eye can mean the difference between life and death in Al Anbar Province, especially on the roads. Marines keep a keen eye open for any signs of potential roadside bombs, called improvised explosive devices, on the streets. 

Since January 2005, IEDs have accounted for about 50 percent of all U.S. fatalities in Iraq, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count – an organization which tallies U.S. and coalition casualties based off Department of Defense press releases.

A healing hand

On one recent patrol, Seaman Leo Perez, one of Lima Company’s Navy Corpsmen, came upon what he called “a sad sight.”  Perez discovered a 10-year-old boy in urgent need of medical care.  The boy was bleeding heavily from one of his heels, which was cut by broken glass.  Perez immediately treated the wound with disinfectant and bandages. 

“I knew it would only take a few minutes to fix his foot up, but he would probably remember that for the rest of his life and it made my day a better one knowing I helped a child,” said Perez, a 24-year-old from Burlington, Vt. “The child was being tough and trying not to cry. But I could see in his face he was relieved to have his foot bandaged up.”

The child’s parents were not in the area when Perez went to work on the child’s foot, but other children and elders in the area witnessed Perez’s actions.  He believes simple acts like this will give the locals a more positive outlook on the presence of coalition forces. 

“Helping the Iraqi people like this brings (them) on our side if they are unsure if they support us or not,” said Perez.  “When they see actions like this, it might (turn) a future insurgent into someone that wants to help us fight insurgents.”

After taking care of the child’s wounded foot, Perez gave the child extra bandages, which the boy accepted with a warm smile.

“We have to have humanitarian concerns about these people,” said Perez.  “There are a lot of people out there against us and when they see humanitarian actions like that one, it changes their minds positively.”

The big picture

Providing band aids to children and teaching urban patrolling tactics to Iraqi soldiers is all part of the process of coalition and Iraqi forces’ ultimate goal – helping the Iraqi government and people to self-sustainment. 

“Everything we do out here, from patrolling the streets to convoys in and out of the city, involves the Iraqi Security Forces,” said Anderson Township, Ohio, native 1st Lt. Scott Perry, the company’s artillery forward observer. 

Perry said the Marines from Lima Company were somewhat surprised at the receptiveness of their presence here.  He believes the locals are tired of living under constant intimidation from insurgents.

“The locals are receptive of us and we want to keep it that way,” said Perry.  “For the next seven months we are going to aggressively patrol the streets and keep the Iraqi people here safe.”

Soon, the Marines from Lima Company will assist the Iraqi Security Forces in providing security during the upcoming local elections – another milestone for this weary town. They’ll also work with local government officials to begin and continue on-going civil affairs projects to improve local infrastructure here.

“Our goal is to leave here knowing these people are safe from insurgents and we are going to do everything in our power to accomplish this,” said Perry.